Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Midnight shakes the memory
As a madman shakes a dead geranium.

T.S. Eliot

N North
None ♠ 10 7 6 5
 Q J 9 6 3
 7 5
♣ 8 2
West East
♠ A K Q 2
 Q J 9 3
♣ A K J 9
♠ J 9 8 4
 5 4 2
 10 8 6
♣ Q 5 4
♠ 3
 A K 10 7
 A K 4 2
♣ 10 7 6 3
South West North East
Pass Pass
1 Dbl. 4 Pass
Pass Dbl. All pass  


When this hand came up in a high standard event in the 1960s, what would nowadays be a reasonable call was then considered to be aggressive to the point of lunacy. But the value of total trumps was still not established. Sometimes, though, I wish those days would come back …

North-South were playing four-card majors, and it was North’s jump to four hearts after West’s double that was the subject of discussion. After two passes, West doubled again to end the auction.

West led the spade king, and when dummy’s trumps appeared, declarer thanked his partner for the dummy, then retracted his gratitude on seeing the rest of his hand. At trick two, West switched to a trump, and declarer, maybe still steaming over North’s lack of values, did not give the deal his full attention.

He won the trump in hand, cashed his top diamonds and ruffed a diamond, then ruffed a spade to hand. He could trump his last diamond high in order to ruff another spade, but now had to lead a club. East carefully overtook his partner’s nine to lead a second round of trumps, and South was left with a spade loser for down one.

If declarer had not lost focus, he might have won the trump in dummy at trick two. Now he would have time to trump three spades in hand (ruffing the third diamond high) for 10 tricks.

One final thought: Why didn’t West lead a trump originally? Then East could take a black suit lead and lead a second trump.

This hand feels right for Crawling Stayman to me. That is to say, bid Stayman and pass a response in a major, or correct two diamonds to two hearts, suggesting a major suit pattern broadly similar to this. Partner will typically pass, but can correct to two spades with 3-2 in the majors. If you don’t play these methods, escape to hearts instead.


♠ 10 7 6 5
 Q J 9 3 2
 7 5
♣ 8 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 NT Pass

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Iain ClimieNovember 30th, 2017 at 12:03 pm

Hi Bobby,

Just as well that West had the singleton 8, though, or I think South runs out of steam and goes 1 off on a spade lead and trump switch. A little note from this side of the pond on your enthusiasm for bridge in schools; see:

If the ACBL drag their feet, maybe it is time to address the problem via clubs instead.



Bobby WolffNovember 30th, 2017 at 2:03 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, that singleton 8 enabled declarer to not have a problem, when ruffing a fourth round of diamonds, making an original trump lead mandatory to set that enterprising 10 trick contract by NS.

At least to me, and while playing 4 card majors for most of my bridge career, the advantage of the possibility of declarer having only four to start with, more often than expected, caused defense guesswork, which in turn, this hand included, played a serious part in the windfall result of NS scoring up this very thin doubled game.

Nowadays when the opponents open the bidding with a major suit, 5 instead of perhaps 5, but maybe only 4, may turn out to be a critical difference in the resulting defense.

It is almost always an advantage for whatever side can reach a decent contract the fastest to prevail, often in the form of what happened here, (although as you deftly pointed out, the singleton heart being the 8 should deny the set as long as a trump was not immediately led). However if South opens one diamond or even a weak NT EW will prevail in the bidding at 4 spades, even though down one (because of the defensive distribution, immediate diamond ruff or spades being 4-1, will likely be the result).

And for your reference to England’s upgrading the status of bridge playing, especially compared to the lethargy which consistently occurs in my home country, at least to me, is instrumental in what figures to happen on this side of the pond in not so many future years to come.

The answer is for our parent organization to immediately go full tilt to try and accomplish what Asia and Europe already have, securing the future of our great game for at least many decades (and likely centuries) instead of pointing it directly toward extinction.

Your suggestions of through the clubs, if not the schools, could work, but since the ACBL is in control, they only, may be the only ones who have the power, people, financial support and concentrated effort to head off its destruction.

However, say and do what you (and I) suggest or whatever else it may take, doesn’t appear likely, at least at this time, unless or until, someone younger and in a better position than me, comes forward to serve as our overwhelmingly positive game’s savior.

The Doomsday clock is armed and running!

ClarksburgNovember 30th, 2017 at 4:05 pm

just a thought…
perhaps the ACBL organization should have small unit (perhaps one or two people) totally devoted to youth bridge.
Their job would be to promote/ assist Clubs, Schools, etc. in whatever seems to or has a good chance to work.
A key would be to find what would / might make Bridge appealing.

Bobby WolffNovember 30th, 2017 at 6:28 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Yes, that may help introduce the possibility of
allowing the learning of bridge to positively deal with numeracy, life’s logic, psychology, ethics, competitive spirit, social advantage and what it takes to succeed and of course with both sexes starting out equal and growing side by side.

However the rave reviews from the eleven countries in Europe who now teach it as a valid for credit elective, produce nothing short of rave reviews from the students, teachers, and most importantly, parents of the children. Note: I have lost touch with my Chinese bridge connections, but seem reasonably sure (which I have heard along the grapevine) that their experience over there with their 200 million students is even better received, but I cannot, as yet, vouch for that.

Back 20+ years ago when first I suggested to the Chinese leaders as President of the WBF
to put bridge in their schools (because of some complications it took them about 10 years to do so) it was widely known that General Mao, the leader of the “bloody” Communist Revolution, insisted that his other generals must play bridge, otherwise they would not be part of leadership. That fact alone encouraged me and no doubt others, to expect them to go all out to accomplish what you, I, and many others, all think is a great idea. In any event they totally embraced the idea and so far, AFAIK is going great guns.

No doubt their better players are doing much better, especially their women who have won multiple tournaments, including world championships.

Finally from the time I learned how to play, when 12 years old in the fairly early 1940s, the thought process seemed right on in searching for answers, and although in the early stages of learning, much of the logic may be hidden, but as it develops, solutions abound, if only sometimes only appearing as percentage opportunities.

Also since clever salesmanship is now incredibly important in convincing positive action by would be consumers, there is plenty of that in the legal deception of trying to convince either the defense or the declarer to go wrong, (compare that to choosing the right advertising for success).

Much of successful entrepreneur’s strategies in today’s ever competitive world and an important prime goal, money earned, instead of only insignificant master points won in our favorite endeavor, playing bridge, are all interwoven into what is being said.

And to some, (no doubt you would always be one of them) the ethics required to always be front and center, may also help to set a higher standard in both enterprises.

Mircea1November 30th, 2017 at 10:03 pm

Hi Bobby,

Assuming 5-card majors, do you agree with North’s jump to 4H? With no singletons or void, I would have bid only 3H

Bobby WolffNovember 30th, 2017 at 10:41 pm

Hi Mircea1,

Undoubtedly bidding only 3 hearts is perhaps
exactly (or close) the value bid.

However, I would always bid 4 hearts, since that extra level has an excellent chance to coax the opponents into making a mistake, first doubling instead of bidding, second, bidding instead of either doubling or passing, third, an opponent to either this round or soon after, judge poorly and either winding up in their wrong suit, and/or the wrong level, including either doubling or not, but in whatever case, not taking the action which works for them.

The more trumps one has, the higher he can bid and the fact that on average this hand will not be strong enough to make 4 hearts even one time in three (33%), the auction is not over, and even if it is, it figures to be a victory for our side.

Note: If bidding only three hearts, it will likely be enabling for the opponents to squirm their way to their best suit as opposed to bidding four and having the opponents then bid 4 spades, wind up in a 4-3 fit and not be able to avoid losing 4+ tricks (especially if they get tapped early)

In other words, 3 hearts, likely the majority choice (50%) but 4 hearts, not, but worth 100%, at least to me, because of a likely superior result.

A good caveat to follow is that when your side has many trumps, favor bidding too much, but when either not as many or no way of knowing, be much more conservative.

Bob BordenNovember 30th, 2017 at 11:36 pm


I don’t think you can afford to ruff 3rd diamond, as you end up in your
hand after spade, trump, spade ruff, AK and 3rd diamond ruffed, spade
ruff. You then still need to ruff the last spade and create an upper-cut
position when you are forced to ruff a diamond to enter dummy to do so.

Am I missing something?



Bob BordenNovember 30th, 2017 at 11:37 pm

Oops, should be :afford to ruff 3rd diamond HIGH”


jim2November 30th, 2017 at 11:55 pm

Agree – I presumed it was a simple misprint.

Bobby WolffNovember 30th, 2017 at 11:57 pm

Hi Bob,

Yes, you just answered your own question correctly.

jim2December 1st, 2017 at 12:10 am

That is, the literal read of the column text would place the lead in declarer’s hand holding only clubs with the North and East hands below:



——————– –
——————– 54
——————– –
——————– Q5

In that position, East cannot fail to over-take the Board’s 3H on some trick.

Bobby WolffDecember 1st, 2017 at 1:09 am

Hi Bob & Jim2,

Yes and yes. Apologies

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